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Teaching Social and Emotional Learning Through the Headlines

Bullies Beware: We The People are Stronger Together

The inauguration of our 45th president, Donald J. Trump, represented the hallmark of American democracy: the peaceful transition of power.  With the utmost of civility, President Obama and President-Elect Trump first had tea at the White House, and then together rode to the inaugural ceremony at the Capitol – an inaugural tradition started in 1837 by President-elect Martin Van Buren and outgoing President Andrew Jackson.
 
President Trump’s inaugural message was clear: “We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.”
 
Unity. Working together. Sound familiar? Often, teachers, coaches and parents begin each school year, school day, game, new chapter or group project with a similar refrain. We the people, when working together, are so much stronger then when against each other. Bullying is incompatible with the democratic spirit. Wherever it may take place, bullying undermines our potential and success – a reality addressed by our highest levels of government.  First Lady Melania Trump has said that taking on cyberbullying will be one of her “main focuses” in the coming years. A 2011 White House Conference on Bullying Prevention brought students, parents, educators, and researchers together to address this epidemic and review resources available at stopbullying.gov.  
 
In a Connect Safely podcast from the recent 2016 International Bullying Prevention Association conference, keynote speaker Michele Borba, an educational psychologist and author of “UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World,” says rather than simply combating bullying, it’s important to attack the root causes of the problem by encouraging social emotional learning and the development of what she calls “habits of empathy.” These habits include being able to recognize feelings, having a moral identity to understand the needs of others, keeping your cool, practicing kindness, and thinking about “us” not “them.”
 
As stated by the International Bullying Prevention Association, while opinions about political policies may be different, we are united in caring for our children and our country.  Let us strive to be positive role models for our children and take this opportunity to spread empathy and kindness. We the People are stronger together. 
  
SEL Connections:
Consider these SEL connections to help students develop lifelong habits of empathy.
 
Self-Awareness: How do you react to others’ successes (when someone makes the team or gets a better grade) or challenges? Do others share in your successes? How does that make you feel?

Self-Management: How can you share in the success or support the challenges of others? What can you do and/or say?
 
Social Awareness:  When it comes to social media, how do you practice kindness and self-restraint? Why is that important?  

Relationship Skills: Do you take the time to really get to know others? How is that best done? Meeting face-to-face? Through texting? Through sharing a school project or a common goal? Who might you reach out to? Who do you know that just might need a friend?

Responsible Decision-Making: What behaviors might you change/choices might you make in order to be a better friend? To be a better student? To be a better teammate? To be a more supportive member of your family? How might that make you feel about yourself? 

CASEL Social and Emotional Learning Core Competencies

•  Self-Awareness
•  Self-Management
•  Social Awareness
•  Relationship Skills
•  Responsible
•  Decision-Making
 

Bullying Statistics:
There's More to Do 

We always wish for happy, smiling, well-adjusted students in our school hallways and in our homes. Yet statistical research reports confirms that bullying, and its effects, remains a huge challenge in our schools and communities: 
 
– Almost one out of every four students (22%) reports being bullied during the school year (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2015).
 
– The reasons for being bullied reported most often by students were looks (55%), body shape (37%), and race (16%) (Davis & Nixon, 2010).
 
– Students who are both targets of bullying and engage in bullying behavior are at greater risk for both mental health and behavior problems than students who only bully or are only bullied (Center for Disease Control, 2015).
 
– Among high school students, 15.5% are cyberbullied and 20.2% are bullied on school property (Center for Disease Control, 2015).
 
– Among middle school students, 24% are cyberbullied and 45% are bullied on school property (Center for Disease Control, 2015).
 
– 74.1% of LGBT students were verbally bullied (e.g., called names, threatened) in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 55.2% because of their gender expression (National School Climate Survey, 2013).
 
– 36.2% of LGBT students were physically bullied (e.g., pushed, shoved) in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 22.7% because of their gender expression (National School Climate Survey, 2013).
 
– 49% of LGBT students experienced cyberbullying in the past year (National School Climate Survey, 2013).

Questions to Consider:
What programs are in place in your school to address bullying issues? How is the effectiveness of those programs measured?

To whom can students turn to for assistance? 

How are children encouraged to respect one another in your classroom? In your home? 

As an adult, how do you model respectful and civil behavior in your classroom, in your home, and within your community? 
 

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